By David Palmer
The Cullman Times
Plans for the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame in Cullman are emerging as a dual concept of educational facility and international tourist attraction.
Visiting Cullman this week, hall of fame board members outlined early concepts for the project to a gathering of local dignitaries Wednesday night at Top of the Town on the upper floor of Cullman Savings Bank.
Hall of fame board president Sammy Lee said a mini-campaign to secure professional fundraisers and lock down designers for the project is nearing completion. Once that money is raised, efforts will kick off to gather $8 million-$10 million for the actual construction of the hall of fame building and develop fishing ponds for educational and research purposes.
“The city has given us until July 2014 to conduct our fundraising efforts, and a little longer if we need it. We have more enthusians now than even when we first announced the project,” Lee said. “The fundraising will be on an international scale.”
Noting that bass fishing is a huge sport in Europe and Japan, Lee said the potential for donors for the project is vast.
“Thousands of Japanese come here to fish. And if you look at how Alabama in the last 20 years has been so successful in attracting international manufacturers, this goes hand in hand,” Lee said.
The educational and research aspects of the project are coming from Auburn University’s involvement. The development and stocking of the ponds will provide an environment for teaching conservation and studying bass.
The tourist aspect is to have a destination where avid fishermen can visit and learn about the world’s top anglers and enjoy an elaborate aquarium, as well as the experience of fishing the ponds.
Board members are stressing that the hall of fame will not be static, but a facility that offers hands-on activities that bring visitors back time after time.
The City of Cullman is also planning the construct a civic center on the property along County Road 222. Parks and Recreation director John Hunt explained that the initial concept is to have facilities that join for easy access from conventions to the hall of fame. He stressed, too, that the concepts in place now could change.
Nonetheless, the civic center plan at this point is to provide a space that can accommodate some 2,000 people in a large gathering, or smaller groups through an idea of being able to close off portions into smaller rooms.
“We hope to make the hall of fame and civic center work together,” Hunt said. “We’re excited about having a grand entrance that will be absolutely beautiful for visitors. We’re also wanting to have the latest technology installed for programs where people can do their programs without having to bring a lot of equipment.”
After visitors go through the hall of fame portion, Lee said one vision is to have people come out into the pond areas, including one that will have seating to watch pro fishermen demonstrate various techniques in bass fishing.
“We want this to be as multi-purpose as possible,” Lee said. “The international publicity this will generate will be tremendous. There is already a large market just within driving distance of Cullman, but the appeal will go even beyond this country.”
The state has committed to fund an interchange off Interstate 65 that will benefit the hall of fame as well as industries in that area. The contract could be let anytime from December to the early months of 2014.
David Palmer may be contacted at email@example.com or 256-734-2131, ext. 116.